It is a rare and special tea that comes from land tradtionally associated with coffee. Los Andes is just such a tea, grown on a Guatemalan nature reserve that rests in the shadows of the volcano of Atitlán. The nature reserve is home to abundant plants and wildlife, including Guatemala's national bird, the Resplendent Quetzal.
For centuries the Resplendent Quetzal has been revered. In Mayan legend the bird was seen as the god of the air, tied to the powerful snake god, Quetzalcoatl. The brilliant green feathers of the Resplendent Quetzal were used in the headdresses worn by the nobility of the Mayan empire.
The last of the Mayan Kings was Tecún Umán, a beloved leader who was king when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in what would become Guatemala. The Spanish requested Tecún Umán give way to Spanish rule. Tecún Umán and the K'iche' people he led refused to do so and prepared to battle the Spanish.
On February 20, 1524, the Spanish and Tecún Umán's met in battle at El Pinal. Legend has it that Tecún Umán entered the battle adorned with the feathers of the Resplendent Quetzal. The beautiful bird also served as Tecún Umán's animal spirit guide. During the battle Tecún Umán met with Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado, who was mounted on horseback. Tecún Umán first attacked the horse and though he turned for a second attack against the Conquistador, he was not successful and Don Pedro de Alvarado sent a spear through the warrior's heart.
The Resplendent Quetzal, full of grief at the loss, landed on Tecún Umán's chest. The bird's own breast feathers were stained red and it fell silent. To this day all male Quetzal's remain silent, their red chest feathers glinting brightly against the long green feathers Tecún Umán once wore into battle.
Today the Resplendent Quetzal loans its name to the currency of Guatemala and remains a popular symbol of the country. It flies above the ground where Los Andes tea grows, bringing history and legend to our special dark tea.
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Photo Credit: D.Hatcher, Jan 2009